I recently purchased a 2012 Stelvio NTX from European Motorsports at Riders Hill in Dahlonega GA. That is a great dealer, by the way.
This motorcycle has received many favorable reviews lately and many people are considering it for their purchase. I took the bike out yesterday and, though staying within a prudent break-in restraint, put the bike through some paces.
Afterward, I thought that perhaps a few comments regarding the Stelvio may be of interest to someone seriously curious about a Stelvio.
About 3 and a half years ago, a good friend purchased a Stelvio when they were first introduced. I had the opportunity to ride the bike many times back then. I even kept the bike for an extended period and used it regularly.
I wrote a long-winded review of the bike in early '09 and posted it here. I went back and retrieved that thread from the archives and re-read it with interest.
In many ways that original review, done 3 and a half years ago, pretty well sums up my current take on the new 2012 NTX. I do have some updates for issues noted in that past review and I have revised it.
I know that this is a lot of stuff for many of you to read but those who are very interested in a Stelvio may get some useful info out of it.
I am a long-time BMW GS owner and rider so much of my review is a comparison of the Guzzi to the GS. I hope fellow GS riders and BMW owners take no offense at any of my remarks.
UPDATE - JULY 2012, 2012 Guzzi Stelvio NTX -
1. On the road.
The Stelvio has undergone many nice refinements since the first 2009 model I tested. It is not as smooth as a BMW GS but it is closer to that than in the past. You get noticeable vibration through the handlebars. The throb. This doesnt really bother me much (I've also been riding a HD Shovelhead for 31 years). I actually like having that sort of visceral feedback but its an issue that other riders, especially non-guzzi riders, will notice. The handlebar throb is somewhat like the V11 sport that I used to have. Perhaps filling it with lead shot would help.
The Stelvio suspension has always been more sporting than my GS (with Ohlins). Now, it is even better. The Guzzi feels much more taut. It also tracks very well and handles curvy roads well. It has a edge over the GS in this regard. I remember being leaned hard in a tight right-hander and encountering a severe bump in the pavement. The Guzzi handled the bump well and never lost its line. The Guzzi is very sporty and hard to ride slow. It loves curves and feels much more like a sportbike than any GS Ive had.
The GS could perhaps be considered more plush. BMW has spent a lot of effort on loading their bikes with every gadget and gizmo they can imagine to appeal to the baby-boomer, "I want all accessories," market. For long distance running, cross country etc., the GS would provide a smoother, more pampered and softer ride both in engine feedback and in suspension feel.
The Guzzi now offers heated grips, switchable ABS, traction control, and an easy-to-operate information computer. The Guzzi does not have electronic adjustable suspension like the GS and I'm glad. The Guzzi suspension, both front and rear, work very well and have a great range of adjustability. For many people, the rigid fork of the Guzzi gives better feel to the rider than does the telelever A-arm rig of the BMW.
The information display of the Guzzi is logical and easy to read. It offers an analog tach and digital speed display. Two "trip" settings are logged and provide information such as average speed, top speed, distance, voltage, fuel mileage etc etc. Current time and ambient temperature is a constant display but the Guzzi does not have a gear indicator as has been standard on the BMW for over a decade.
The computer operation of the Guzzi is greatly improved over the original Stelvio. The toggle operation is simple and it responds well to operation. Some folks do not like the location of the computer toggle just above the turn signal switch but, in quick time, I learned it and it is not a problem for me. The turn signal switch is a typical manual one without any self-canceling function. Though not a huge advantage, the BMW is somewhat better arranged in this regard, having an easily-operated computer toggle and programmer switch totally seperated from any other switch.
Power on the Guzzi is very different than the GS. The Guzzi feels much more torquey. It's fast. My seat-of-the-pants judgement is that it will out-run the 1200 GS which is no small compliment since the GS aint no slouch. Due to the NTX being new, I did not romp on it but I remember my friend's 09 model well. The rush of the Guzzi above 6000 rpm is fun.
From my impressions then : "... in fouth gear this thing redlines at over 115 mph. For most sport riding, you never need more than 3rd or 4th gear. On a long straight stretch, I was able to top the Stelvio out at an indicated 140-141 mph and thats with the large Givi windshield."
The Guzzi transmission worked fine on the '09 model and it is even better now on the '12 model. Even with the out-of-the box new NTX, there is no shift issues and the transmission works better than just about anything I've ridden. The Guzzi is much slicker shifting than the somewhat notchy feel of the GS.
A huge advantage of the Guzzi is its dimensional size. Remember that the '12 has been re-designed and now carries an 8.5 gallon tank. The remarkable thing, however, is not that they put an 8.5 gallon tank on the bike but that they did it within basically the same relatively narrow body dimensions of the '09 bike. Sit on the Stelvio and then sit on a BMW GS Adventure. The difference is startling. The Guzzi retains its compact profile whereas the BMW is literally HUGE.
So, for distance range, the Stelvio matches and compares to the huge GS Adventure and not the regular GS. Dimensionally, the Stelvio is more compact than even the regular GS !
Part of this is due to the BMW telelever front suspension whose A-arm requires the GS tank to spread out around the A-arm. The Guzzi has an upside-down fork that allows a tighter and more narrow front body design for the Stelvio.
Weight numbers are hard to get for comparison. The Stelvio NTX comes loaded with aluminum bags, engine guards, auxiliary lighting and many other things. The factory weight number includes those items whereas such things are considered accessories for the BMW and not included in published dry or wet weights.
Some of the weight advantage of the BMW is lost with the added weight of spare parts that I and any serious long distance BMW rider carries in the tail pack. I always carry a final drive rebuild kit with those big bearings and seals, a few special tools, fuel controller parts and the like. Such a thing is a non-issue with the Guzzi.
Going back and sourcing weight numbers for the '09 Stelvio (without bags) and comparing to a BMW GS (without bags) shows the Guzzi with anywhere from 25 to 48 pounds greater weight than the BMW, depending on the source of the numbers. I hope to physically weigh the two bikes soon and get some real numbers.
Regardless of the weight numbers, the Guzzi Stelvio feels much lighter than either the GS or GS Adventure. The Guzzi's more svelte dimensions and quicker steering make it feel lighter than the BMW. I am amazed that the Guzzi has 8.5 gallons of fuel capacity.
The Guzzi will flat run. It sounds good too. Nothing matches the sound of a V Twin motor.
Just as in 2009, the Guzzi wins, hands down. No comparison. If you do much off-road, the Stelvio is far, far superior to the GS. The magazine reviewers are remiss in not noticing this. The advantage gap is even wider now when comparing the NTX to the Adventure. The determining factor here is first gear running and sheer size.
With these large and heavy dual sport bikes on dirt there are times when going slow is essential. The GS has been plagued since its inception with a notoriously tall first gear. Even the "enduro" transmission of the huge BMW Adventure has a too-tall first gear.
If you're around GS riders on serious mud or technical washouts, you're going to smell the distinct aroma of a burning clutch since one is compelled to slip the clutch in those circumstances. Yes, the conventional instruction for GS riding is "When in doubt, gas it." Thats a cute quip, and momentum will carry you through many situations, but there are times when that wont work and the GS is a hard bike to ride in those times. The BMW first gear is way too tall and the engine too easily stalls.
The Stelvio, on the other hand, will walk itself out of bad situations in first gear even with no throttle. I bogged down a couple of times in 10-inch Alabama mud that folded over the rims. The Stelvio would sometimes stop forward motion while the rear wheel gently spinned in the mud with my hand off the throttle! I'd paddle forward with my feet and, when traction was finally obtained, the bike would resume forward progress. Chugga chugga chugga, all at idle speed !
On very technical or incline climbs, in first gear, the Guzzi would calmly just walk up the dried, hard rock at a manageable speed with a little throttle. I never had to worry about slipping the clutch or "giving it the gas" to barrel through something that I didn't wanna barrel through. Especially when you think about comparing the Guzzi to a huge Adventure in these situations, the advantage is a no-brainer.
I remember than the '09 Guzzi liked to rooster tail on dirt. Grab a handfull of throttle in 2nd or 3rd and that rear wheel would break loose easily.
A big complaint I had with the '09 model was the wheel size. I thought that Guzzi should have fitted the Stelvio with a set of wheels the same size as the GS in order to avail the Guzzi rider of the wide choice of dual-sport tires out there. Guzzi has done just that with the '12 NTX. It rides on two sealed-spoke wheels the same size as the GS.
Specification-wise, the GS has a wee-bit more suspension travel than the Guzzi but that is largely academic considering the more significant advantages of the Stelvio off-road.
I have read minor criticism about some test riders having troubles with their left leg hitting the left cylinder of the Guzzi and about the heat dissipated by that left cylinder. I'm 6-2 and I never contact that left jug. I tried yesterday to make that happen. If I scrooch way-up on the tank and try, I can make contact with the left cylinder. The contact, however, is with the plastic guard shield on the throttle body or with the plastic shield on the valve cover. I cannot understand how anyone would contact the hot metal fins of the head or cylinder.
In hot weather, yes, you can feel heat from the left side. This is similar to the heat you will feel from both cylinders of a BMW in similar conditions. Fuel injection tweaking will greatly help this issue but, for most riding, it is not a big thing. Hey, when the day is hot, everything is hot.
The Stelvio is a different animal than the BMW.
I have owned and ridden four BMW GS models including an Adventure. I currently own a 2007 1200GS. I like BMW's.
A big disadvantage for the Guzzi is the relatively limited dealer network. The BMW dealer network is limited too but it is better than that of the Guzzi. Many people depend on local dealers for service and support so this is an important issue.
On the other hand, the Guzzi is easier to service than the BMW. It has a much less complicated electrical system and fewer gadgets to cause problems. BMW's are becoming much more difficult for the owner to service and one is too-often required to take their bike to a dealer for repairs.
I was once stranded in Jacksonville FL with a dead 1200GS. The computer simply shut everything down and no on-the-road diagnosis was possible. I was forced to consume two entire days of getting a wrecker truck and towing the bike to the dealer in Daytona only to find that the problem was a weak cell in the battery. With the Guzzi, such an issue would have been easily determined and corrected on-site with much less trouble.
The sad truth, too, is that BMW's have become known for their many reliability issues. The legendary final drive failures, the fuel pump controller failures, the security system failures, the ABS failures, transmission shaft failures and many more issues plague the BMW's. I have been stranded several times with such things on my BMW's. I could elaborate but the fact is that the Guzzi's, though with fewer dealers, are showing much fewer problems that would require a dealer.
Piaggio has done a good job. I expect that, with bikes such as the Stelvio and the other machines they are producing, we will see greater sales and eventually more dealers. Now would be a good time for people to open new dealerships and get in on the ground floor as the Guzzi brand undergoes a resurgence.
The Stelvio NTX is a winner in all categories. When you consider all the advantages of the Guzzi described above and then note that the Stelvio is not only $5000-6000 less costly to buy than a comparably-equipped GSA but the Stelvio has a 2-year unlimited mileage warranty, the decision is easy to make.
If you are a GS rider with an open mind or if you are just considering a large enduro dual-sport, give the Guzzi a try.
You may discover something very good that you did not expect.